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Seth Roberts, Guest Blogger (Part II)

Here’s another post from Seth Roberts, our guest blogger. If you need to get up to speed on Seth’s unorthodox research with weight-loss, mood, and sleep, click here (our N.Y. Times article about Seth), here (research extras and pix), here (the first round of reader comments), and here (for Seth’s first guest-blog, including comments and questions).

Dietary Non-Advice
Tues., Sept. 13

I reflexively checked this blog several times yesterday (Monday). And each time I realized: If there’s going to be new content . . .

Because I hope to write a diet book I am not going to be giving advice, at least until my future publisher approves. But I am happy to talk about how I lost weight and how I maintained (and maintain) the loss. With that in mind,

1. The Times article wasn’t terribly precise about what I do now. For good reason: Neither am I. I used to drink carefully measured amounts of fructose water or extra-light olive oil — amounts containing about 100-300 calories per day. Now I measure nothing. I am sure however that my total caloric intake from what I will call unusual foods has not changed. The unusual foods currently consist of canola oil, sucrose water (much more convenient than fructose water), and most days a raw egg, swallowed quickly, as the Italians do. Ah, food taboos. I repeat: I am not recommending this (or anything else). I got the idea from a friend of mine; a raw egg swallowed quickly is a relatively diverse source of calories without taste. Perhaps she got the idea from the Italian custom. I have only been swallowing raw eggs for a few months and overall am beginning to think they are more trouble than they are worth. The child in me wishes there were more opportunities to bring it up in conversation. Just as when I was a graduate student I enjoyed saying (truthfully) that I subscribed to the National Enquirer. “That’s worse than Playboy!” someone said.

2. I am leaning toward consuming the sugar water hot in the evenings. Somehow it tastes better then. An Italian friend of mine says that when he was young, that’s what his mother gave him — hot sugar water before bed time. If the critics of sugar wish to malign an entire country of devoted mothers tending to their children . . .

3. Before he studied food intake, my friend the physiologist Michel Cabanac, at Laval University, Quebec, studied temperature regulation; and his work in that area may have helped him understand food intake. There is a body-temperature set point: a temperature the body tries to maintain by increasing or decreasing not only how much we sweat but also how pleasant we find heat and cold. Michel found that there was a circadian rhythm in the set point: it went up and down with a 24-hour rhythm. The circadian rhythm of the set point causes the more obvious circadian rhythm in body temperature. How pleasant we find heat varies with the time of day; a warm shower will be more pleasant in the morning (when our set point is rising) than at other times (when it is no longer rising). This doesn’t predict, I admit, that hot sugar water should taste better in the evening. Michel also found (or perhaps someone else found this) that the body temperature set point depended on the external (air) temperature: When it was cold, the set point went up. Because he knew this, it was easy for him to believe that the body fat set point also depended on external conditions. That is the general idea behind my weight-control theory.

4. I don’t know if canola oil works. I haven’t been doing it very long. For a few years, I used extra-light olive oil to maintain my weight loss. I’m sure it works — for me. I swallow it easily. Lots of people don’t. If anyone understands what causes the difference — why it is easy for some, hard for others — please let us know. Perhaps someone has had an experience that changed easy to hard or hard to easy.

That’s enough non-advice for now. I will return to the topic in future blogs — check back often!